C'est vrai: French president promises to ban homework

The Globe and Mail

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Homework is officially finished – in France at least.

No more angry tears over the 9-times tables at the kitchen table. No more sheets of grammar discovered the next morning in the bottom the book bag.

French President Francois Hollande won the adoration of school children (and their time-crunched parents) when he promised a total nation-wide ban on homework. The promise was made as part of a series of important education reforms: increasing the number of teachers, reducing the number of students held back each year, incentives for teachers to work in low-income areas. But it’s the homework cancellation that’s making headlines.

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“Education is priority,” Hollande said at the Sorbonne University on Wednesday, as reported by France 24. “An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school rather than at home.”

He pointed out that homework creates a disadvantage for students who can’t get help from parents at home.

But in fact, the research on the academic advantages of homework for any students is far from conclusive – particularly as the amount of it has steadily risen in the last few decades.

While some research has found that homework helps teach students life skills and responsibilities, it’s benefits, particularly for the younger grades, has been pretty suspect. Benefits hinge on the amount of time spent on homework, the type of assignments given and the level of conflict in the home over getting it done. One of the most vocal critics of homework has been U.S. educator Alfie Kohn, who argues there is no connection between time spent on homework and academic achievement.

In the face of those mixed review, the French president has taken a clear stand and declared the homework wars over. But there is a trade-off: French students, who attend school for four days at week until about 5 p.m., will now have to spend more time in class. The school week, Mr. Hollande said, will now be increased to four-and-a-half days.

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